Research Projects

Hong Kong Takes Flight: Commercial Aviation and the Making of Hong Kong, 1930s – 1998

(Funded under General Research Fund Scheme 2020 – 2021 Exercise, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong)

Principal Investigator

John D. Wong, Associate Professor, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Total Fund Awarded

HKD 510,000

Project Duration

36 months

Project Description

This project investigates how the development of commercial aviation took shape in Hong Kong as the city developed into a powerful economy. Dr. John D. Wong examines how commercial aviation and Hong Kong’s historical trajectory influenced each other’s developmental path, and seeks to understand the articulation of local specificities of an expanding global industry in the context of Hong Kong’s economic takeoff. Aviation facilitated intense flows of people, goods and capital. The development of the industry allowed Hong Kong to converge with a common platform while accommodating articulations of local variations. More than merely enhancing physical connections and economic flows, commercial aviation shaped the people, spaces, and institutions that it connected. Focusing on policymakers in Hong Kong and London, Cathay Pacific and local carriers that operated alongside industry titans such as B.O.A.C. and Pan American, this project is the first academic study that combines the business history of aviation with an examination of the city’s economic and political transformations. Starting with aviation’s humble foray into Hong Kong in the 1930s and concluding with the move of the airport from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok in 1998, the project explores how commercial aviation fashioned regional and global connections against the backdrop of shifting geopolitics and in response to the exigencies of Hong Kong’s economic development.